Wednesday, March 26, 2008

same-sex marriages

The issue of same-sex marriages is often in the news and seems to generate quite a bit of controversy; should it be allowed or not, maybe we'll only let them have civil unions etc... Personally I don't see what the fuss is about and am very struck by the incredibly conservative, backward and seemingly ill-conceived arguments of supposedly intelligent people against same-sex marriage. Take the letter by Professor Patricia Casey, a professor of psychiatry in the Mater Hospital that appeared in last Monday's Irish Times, quoted in full below:

"Madam, - In response to Anna Sarkadi of the University of Uppsala (March 18th) may I be permitted to say the following? The central point is that the study conducted by the University of Uppsala shows that fathers, and father figures, matter. It shows that children tend to do better when a father or father figure is present and active in their lives.

This being so, we must then ask: which set of policies is most likely to engage a father in the lives of their children? The evidence strongly suggests that the answer to this question is marriage. It is true, as Anna Sarkadi points out, that a married father will not be automatically engaged in the lives of his children, but he is considerably more likely to be than if he is not married.

We know the difficulty unmarried, divorced and separated fathers often have in maintaining regular contact with their children, sometimes despite their best efforts. We also know that unmarried, divorced and separated fathers sometimes simply lose contact with their children over time and, in the case of unmarried fathers, never come into contact with them at all in some cases.

This is much less likely to happen if the father is married to the mother of his children. This is why we must continue to give particular support to the marriage between a man and a woman. - Yours, etc,"

A rather strange argument really if you think about it. Daft really. Just how is the role of men in their children's lives and the statistical correlation between men's marital status and their relationships with their children got anything to do with the individual rights of two men or two women who are in a committed relationship wanting the same protections as marriage?????

Yes, a man may be more likely to be involved in his children's lives if he is married to their mother. But is that simply because he is married or is he married because he wants to be involved in the first place? Also the difficulties associated with separated fathers maintaining strong relationships with their children may be well documented but there are still many separated fathers that have stronger relationships with their children than married fathers. It seems to me that marital status tends to be a reflection of the strength of the relationship between the man and the woman in the first place, but does not inherently "make" a man into a better father. Surely it makes more sense to support positive, supportive and nurturing relationships rather than "marriage" per se.

So just what is a positive, supportive and nurturing relationship that is an ideal environment for the raising of children, and just how should this impact on who society decides should be allowed to marry? Does marriage have anything to do with raising children at all? And if it does, does it matter in the context of same-sex marriages? Aren't these the real issues?

Ok, well let's say just for the sake of argument, and most people would probably agree, that marriage is mostly about providing a loving and stable environment for the raising of children. Where does the gender of the parents really come into this?

It seems that it is simply assumed that a man and woman is the best option no matter what. It is true that man+woman=baby but that doesn't necessarily mean that those two people who make the baby are going to make good parents and certainly doesn't mean that a couple just because they are man+woman are going to make better parents than would a same-sex couple. The funny thing is that none of this matters, almost any man and woman can marry no matter how bad a set of parents they would make. The quality of environment that they would create for a child is NEVER a consideration in whether they should be allowed marry. There are no qualifications whatsoever, you just have to be man+woman.

Now consider same-sex couples. Obviously same-sex couples can't have children by themselves, but a woman can easily get pregnant (accidentally or intentionally, doesn't matter anyway) and the man (or woman) in that case can simply feck off as our eminent professor so clearly pointed out. The one left with the child may well want to marry someone of the same sex and raise the child(ren). Alternatively, same sex couples could (if they were allowed) simply adopt, the same way that "normal" couples do.

When it comes to considering if same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, there is this moral panic and nail-biting angst about the effect that this will have on society an on children who have same-sex couples as parents.

It is claimed that same-sex marriage by itself, even without the involvement of children, will undermine "normal" marriage. Really? If John and Marry are indeed happily married how would the fact that Joe and Dennis down the road are now allowed to marry affect John and Mary's marriage. Unless of course John is really bisexual and has his eye on another man, but that is another matter entirely. Generally I don't see how ones own intimate relationships are affected by the intimate relationships of others whether they be heterosexual, homosexual or whatever.

And what if children are involved? Why all of a sudden do people start to consider the suitability of partners in a parenting role when they happen to be of the same sex, when it is not a consideration whatsoever when the partners are of the opposite sex? I find it hardly credible in the slightest that the welfare of children is ever the real issue here. More like old-fashioned bigotry masquerading as learned, scholarly and considered opinion of the "educated".

Yes society should support positive relationships and especially so in as much as this would help provide loving and stable environments for children, but the insistence that marriage between only a man and a woman is the only way to do this is nothing but a dishonest farce.


  1. You're right Plasmonic. I suppose it's all to do with our enshrining coinstitution.

    I can see the argument against church marriage for gay people, seeing as the Church says 'down with this sort of thing' - I can't for the life of me see why gay people should not be entitled to the same civil rights concerning matters of the heart!

    And given the way the world works, gay couples who have children are not more or less likely to do so if they're married, as far as I can see.

    I wonder why the idea of gay marriage is so threatening. If we accept the idea, does it mean we have to accept that gay people are... people too!

  2. I have gay friends who I know would make amazing parents, I've often joked I'd carry the baby for them. If I had a gay friend who really wanted a baby and there was something I could do to help them I would, as I would if a straight friend needed help.

    Children are adaptable and once they are loved they can adapt to almost any circumstances!

    Great post....I hate the Irish times, it might be high brow, but it's biggoted Kevin Myers style high brow!

  3. In UK, 2 elderly sisters have taken an EU court case seeking to get same status as civil partners, they prob won't succeed. But it makes you wonder why persons in a sexual union deserve such special treatment by the State in the first place. At the end of the day special treatment for married people is historically for protecting the family, and so special treatment for same sex couples is just an extension of this. There's always someone left out. I heard an argument recently for civil recognition of sibling couples who don't bear children, as they are in the same position as same sex couples, e.g. non-fruitful consenting adult union.

    At the end of the day I'm always wary of the current strong opinion on anything cause I know very soon it will be out of date.

  4. Its not the gay couple's children that have a problem so long as they are loved and happy, its the extreamly bias people in our society.